On A Very Stormy 'Survivor,' the Placid One Goes Gently

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Out of the Outback: Amber

The heavens raged, the wind blew, and when the floods subsided there were two new tribes in this rather apocalyptic season of "Survivor 2." The Baramundi tribe, minus Amber, and the Colby tribe.

In such a storm-tossed new world, it figures that anything beautiful and eerily calm was bound to go. The editors had set it up for us, as it turned out — Amber got Week 11's first featured-possible-victim slot, with everybody (mostly Tina) saying how she was tougher and wilier than they thought, but not so tough and wily that they wouldn't easily cook her up and eat her with the last of the rice — but of course, that selective editing by the boys at CBS has us pretty bollixed up by now.

So she went. Colby went too far, won not one but two too many challenges, and suddenly he was way past smooth-it-over-with-a-little-piece-of-the-Great Barrier Reef. Missing its teeth, hair and pecs, the Ogakor alliance of cards crumbled, and Amber went, but only because Colby had that durn necklace on. And now we'll see how far the direct route gets the cowboy now that he's traveling it alone.

Ah, who knows. Maybe he'll stick around, which might be a good thing. Because although CBS managed to conjure up enough elemental madness this week to give the surviving Survivors a nice stark profile, let's face it: The alliance picture may keep getting interestingly blendered, and the Tribal Councils have been reliably suspenseful. But viewer fatigue is fast coming from another direction — the centrists are taking over the show, and we all know how riveting a good bunch of centrists are.

Amber was the dull one, you say? Amber had upside. She still looked plenty good, and when Colby and she went one-two in the Reward Challenge rope course, she was definitely threatening to join the living, personality-wise. And when she stared down the horizon and uttered those unforgettable words — "Hope. Hope for a fish. A nice night with no rain." — something stirred. She was the savant, the Chauncey Gardiner of the outback, and by the end of all this we'll all be in love with her.

Never mind.

So anyway, take her and Colby away, and what have you got? A clear victory for the old-folks alliance, age trumping beauty, with Elisabeth hitching a ride on Rodger's frayed flannel coattails. Sure, Keith and Tina can brave the midnight rapids to retrieve the rice canister that was washed away in the storm (even if Keith — doh! — had the matches in his pocket the whole time). And they're clearly the tightest mini-alliance, having bonded over being stuck in the cultural no-man's-land between young-and-beautiful and old-and-cuddly. (Besides, I suspect Elisabeth and Rodger of quietly plotting against each other.) But do we really want to see those two square off for the million?

Even the jury will be bored.

But never mind the ratings, or our drooping eyelids. For now, the fact that this thing has gotten biblical, weather-wise, is entertainment enough.

"Rodger. There are two seasons in the Outback — the dry season and the wet season. This is the wet season," intoned Jeff Probst. "Why did you set up camp in a dry river bed?" (Probst, by the way, had an excellent episode, not only scoring with the good question — he'll bump Rather yet — but also making an uncredited appearance in a kangaroo suit.)

Rodger blamed it on the women, but we know it was Rodger's vengeful Old Testament God who is putting the five remaining Jobs through some pretty serious trials. No food except the rice, and apparently Keith is cooking it all next week. By the time Colby, who seems rather full of beans despite having apparently left his Reward Challenge Buffet in little piles all along the way home, receives the vengeance due the well-muscled and well-fed, CBS may well have a very serious Reality TV question to answer:

What if the contestants start calling "Survivor"'s central bluff and start keeling over? Does CBS send in a trumped-up Meals-on-Wheels gambit like last episode's shelter-for-food Probstian bargain? Or do they just let them start eating cameramen?

Either one would probably be fine with this increasingly bitter, savage bunch of beaten-down summer campers, as long as there was plenty of crisp, refreshing Bud Light to wash it down.

Mmm. Product placement. Five bottles of beer on the wall.